Saw makers typically make saws that aim to cut precisely, but a reciprocating saw aka sawzall is an exemption as it cuts construction materials roughly. It is also used for demolition purpose. Demolition is more fun as well as easier. Whether it is walls, windows, or doors, you only need to cut and toss. Its motor transmits enough power to the blade for cutting via different materials, such as plaster, metal, stucco, wood, fiberglass, and masonry. Such versatility with efficiency is what the best reciprocating saws ensure. This guide will help you find the best reciprocating saw for you. We have also featured short, reciprocating saw reviews towards the end.
via Mark Hunter
A reciprocating saw is an entry tool to own once you become a serious Do-It-Yourself (DIY) artist handling a remodeling project or different repairs. Rather than being a fine crafting tool, such a saw is a workhorse that derives its name from the back-and-forth blade stroke for cutting. It is intended to cut through and take apart what was put together with great efforts. It can literally cut everything; while other saws can cut a few items more rapidly, they cannot do so with a variety of materials.
- 1 Potential Uses
- 2 Working of a Reciprocating Saw
- 3 Best Sawzall: Original Reciprocating Saw
- 4 Choosing the Best Reciprocating Saw
- 5 What to look for in a Reciprocating Saw ?
- 5.1 Factor 1: Types
- 5.2 Factor 2: Brands
- 5.3 Factor 3: Comfort and Convenience
- 5.4 Factor 4: Blade Type
- 5.5 Factor 5: Shoe Adjustment
- 5.6 Factor 6: Stroke Length
- 5.7 Factor 7: Speed and Variable Speed
- 5.8 Factor 8: Movement Type
- 5.9 Factor 9: Blade Replacement
- 5.10 Factor 10: Advanced Ergonomics
- 5.11 Factor 11: Safety
- 5.12 Factor 12: Storage Case
- 6 5 Best Reciprocating Saws of 2016 Reviewed
- 7 Conclusion
Unlike a handheld saw, a reciprocating one runs on electricity. While a chainsaw corresponds to a circular model, a reciprocating one corresponds to a jigsaw. Both the chainsaw and reciprocating saw are not for finishing work but they are designed for having rapid cuts that need not be cute.
Just as a jigsaw, a reciprocating saw cuts curves on wooden ends or in items of thinner sheet. However, for such a task, a jigsaw is more suitable due to its narrower, thinner, and relatively shorter blade. Just as a jigsaw, this saw boasts a floating blade held at an end. This signifies that you can bend the blade easily to a side, just by using the pressure of the tool’s weight
The blade of a reciprocating saw is designed to discard the material quickly as well as to a greater depth. As a rough cutting saw, a reciprocating saw cuts bigger wood pieces, like laminated beams. The tool is famous for its performance in jobs related to plumbing, construction, electrical, and HVAC. It is also useful to reach up to areas behind the fixed items where any other saw cannot penetrate.
The embedded blade works in a way so that you can lead it even to tight spaces. As a result, a reciprocating saw proves to be more useful in situations where other saws often are infeasible, slow, or create a considerable safety risk. Unlike a circular saw, this one is easier to control while making cuts over your head or from a ladder.
Such a saw is also ideal for cutting slots or holes in the middle of walls or sheets. You can even use it to make flash cuts around neighboring materials that otherwise tend to obstruct other saws.
Working of a Reciprocating Saw
A reciprocating saw works by implementing a pull and push action. As you pull and push the tool, it may support itself to add resistance to its movement as well as boost the overall efficiency. This mechanism is sufficient to cut through both thin and thick materials. The spinning of a motor gets transformed into a back and forth, linear motion. This transformation happens using in one of the several techniques, such as Crank, Swashplate, Eccentric, and Scotch Yoke.
In the Crank technique, the shaft is attached to a side of a rotating shaft. In case of Swashplate technique, a disc is escalated to a rotating axle at a slight angle and shafts on the disc at a right angle. The disc then moves back and forth as it spins.
In the Eccentric technique, the reciprocating shaft is affixed to a side of a round disc whose hinge is the motor shaft. The rotating motion of this disc generates a reciprocating motion. Lastly, in the technique of Scotch Yoke, the rotating shaft has an attached short arm and moves within a vertical section.
The latest reciprocating saws usually employ some kind of the eccentric technique. Excluding the Swashplate method, all these techniques need balancing components to balance their intrinsic vibration. The best reciprocating saw, therefore, comes with extra vibration damping for boosting user comfort.
Almost all reciprocating saws are two-handed units weighing a bit more than a few other saws. However, this bulk is essential for better grip and vibration dispersal. For the beginners, the tool can be a bit cumbersome. Apart from a variable speed setting, a majority of saws tend to switch from a linear back and forth motion for cutting metal with an orbital hit that is more ideal for cutting wood.
Best Sawzall: Original Reciprocating Saw
A reciprocating saw is known by several names, such as saber, recip, and Sawzall. Of all, the latter one is more popular. The word ‘Sawzall’ is derived from the original recip saw from Milwaukie. It is the original recip saw that the brand first made in 1951.
The best Sawzalls are rough and tough, and cut rapidly without much poise. They are certainly not the choice for building cabinets. Regardless of what you call, reciprocating saws are essential for workshops, remodeling, and de-construction.
Choosing the Best Reciprocating Saw
Well, the market is thronged with a variety of recip saws, each varying in terms of different factors. For example, the saws varies in terms of size, ranging right from small reciprocating models for ensuring portability to big units for heavy-duty tasks. Similarly, even the blades vary in terms of lengths, due to which users should choose the right one as per their cutting needs.
Similarly, the other features and specifications also vary, which determines the special use of the tool under analysis. To buy the best recip saw, you are supposed to consider the buying factors that also encompass these features.
However, for considering or analyzing these factors, you need to know your requirements such as the exact amount of required tool movement, accessibility to power outlets, the bearable weight and size, and duration for which you will run the tool more often. After all, ease of use or convenience should be ensured against each specification or capability of the tool. Those units with adjustable and rotating blades are ideal for working in small quarters or sawing around objects or in awkward positions. A few models are lighter and more compact for ensuring greater control.
Well, you should choose the model as per your need priorities (primary needs) that you need to map with the buying factors. So, let’s check out all the factors!
What to look for in a Reciprocating Saw ?
Factor 1: Types
Broadly, two types of reciprocating saws or Sawzalls exist: corded and cordless. To decide from the two, it is essential to weigh the features and capabilities as per your work environment.
Corded versus Cordless
Corded saws are lighter as there is no battery but the cord is likely to limit the overall maneuverability. On the other hand, cordless models run on highest voltage batteries manufactured by the tool manufacturers for ensuring enough power. Such models drain out battery very quickly, while operating incessantly. Thus, the recurring cost of new batteries can prove to be costly in the long run. The corded models remove this issue of dying batteries and are somewhat cheaper.
In terms of power, corded versions win because of higher power ranging from 9 to 15 amps. If you are looking for the best Sawzall or recip saw for professional demolition jobs or incessant cutting tasks, a model with power of 10 amps or higher is ideal. In case of cordless saws, the power might not be as high as those with cords but what you get is the better range of movement. You can easily rely upon a cordless reciprocating saw for heavy-duty cutting but choose the one with a higher voltage option ranging in between 18v and 24v.
Cordless reciprocating saws offer more maneuverability and the ease of moving around but at the cost of losing power as the battery runs down. On the other hand, a corded reciprocating saw will give you the benefit of non-stop full power at consistent performance. According to reciprocating saws reviews as well as Sawzall reviews, it is best to have a tool of more than 10 amps for heavy-duty cutting.
The more the amperage, the greater is the power you have. A 15-amp power is essential on a daily basis if you are a contractor, while 11-amp power is enough for a DIY person who has undertaken a big demolition project.
Working on lithium-ion batteries, cordless models are more useful if there are no electric outlets nearby or are supposed to work in construction sites or amidst woods. Nowadays, you get cordless models as light as the corded ones because of the lithium-ion batteries that can do much work without running low on power.
Unlike corded reciprocating saws, cordless reciprocating saws come with the benefits of portability, improved action, and better stroke depth. With batteries in, there is no need for you to carry an inconvenient extension cord or a heavy generator.
Further, a cordless tool delivers more action, as you can easily cut horizontally and vertically as well as up and down, more aggressively. You also gain variable speeds and orbital action, ensuring greater control as well as convenience. Additionally, a cordless reciprocating saw allows longer strokes at a depth gauging 1.25 inches, offering quicker and more aggressive cuts than a shorter stroke of 0.75 inches required for plunge cuts.
Air Reciprocating Saws
Air recip saws are special types of recip saws, also known as pneumatic saws. As the name indicates, air saws are powered by an air compressor or by the gas in portable cylinders (carbon dioxide). Unlike most conventional saws, these are lighter, smaller, and more efficient.
A reciprocating air saw features a cutting blade moving to and fro but is a highly versatile unit. This is because it can accommodate a variety of blades to cut stone, steep pipes, wood, plastic, fiberglass, and even metal parts. Such units are handy for automotive refurbishment and restoration. They produce little heat, which when coupled with light weight design, makes them ideal for extended use.
You also get portable air saws that are powered by compressed air cylinders that are small. Regardless of the type you choose, air saws function in the same way as electric powered models and need proper care and safety measures. To extend their lifespan, proper maintenance including lubrication is indispensable.
Small Reciprocating Saws versus Big Reciprocating Saws
Typically, you need to choose the tool as per the amount of work you have in hand. For example, if you need the tool occasionally for small home projects, a small reciprocating saw due to its light weight is an ideal choice. Similarly, if you need a tool for professional, heavy-duty jobs like major demolitions or branch garnishing, a heavier unit is ideal due to its additional features and more power.
Factor 2: Brands
When it comes to buying power tools, it is always wise to consider a branded model. You will come across several of branded reciprocating saws but each brand stands out in terms of convenience, affordability, and extra features. For recip saws, the top brands are Milwaukee, DeWalt, Porter Cable, Ryobi, Black & Decker, Makita, Skil, and Bosch, in no particular order.
Milwaukee recip saws, the Sawzalls, usually come with 10+ amps, fully rotating handle, and 1.25-inch stroke cutting through different materials aggressively. Milwaukee and Makita both are famous for their cordless varieties.
DeWalt recip saws are admired for their cordless or corded flexibility, light weight, and much maneuverability at 1 1/8-inch stroke. Ryobi is also getting popular for its lightweight recip saws with 18v battery designed for DIY owners working at home.
It is recommended choosing a lightweight recip saw that is easy to maneuver above the head for incessant cutting but at minimal fatigue.
Factor 3: Comfort and Convenience
This blend is perhaps at the core around which all other buying factors revolve. Without these two, it simply does not make sense to buy a feature-rich model. Usually, a task with a reciprocating saw needs several hours of incessant work. This is why it is essential to choose the tool ensuring maximum comfort.
When you use a recip saw overhead, it can lead to fatigue as you hold it at an upward angle for a prolong time. If you are going to work overhead, it is recommended choosing a lighter model.
If you need to work in smaller or tighter spaces, consider using a small reciprocating model for improved maneuverability. Such a tool should have an adjustable blade along with a rotating handle or even rotating blade. Further, the tool should have anti-slip features with a natural grip to be utilized at different angles. Consider having cushioned grips for maximized comfort as well as for good resistance for sweat-filled, prolonged tasks.
In general, you should consider buying a reciprocating saw with a well-balanced design for having more control while lighter use. Lastly, ensure that there is anti-vibration feature, as saws vibrate a lot only to boost fatigue. Such a feature ensures that you can work for a longer time to finish the tasks rapidly as well as more accurately.
For convenience, you need to check out for ease of use as well as efficiency. Because reciprocating units are employed for demanding tasks that rapidly eat through blades, consider a unit that allows for tool-less blade changing. Such ability ensures not only boosted efficiency, but also least frustration. Similarly, you should look for a tool-less adjustable shoe contributing to more stability, flexible rubber cord for better maneuverability, a lighted plug for live tracking, and a storage case for proper storage of cord and unit.
Factor 4: Blade Type
Makers of recip saws make different types of blades for cutting through a myriad of materials. Of all, the most common blades are combination and wood blades. Also known as bi-metal blades, combination blades with up to 20 TPI or Teeth per Inch are more versatile to cut through PVC, wood, plastic, metal, and more. Wood ones with 6 to 10 TPI are specially for aggressively cutting the wood. A few manufacturers offer special blades for metal cutting.
In terms of length, recip saw blades are available in two lengths namely, short and long. A short blade usually measures 6 inches long, while a longer one is usually 12 inches long. The latter can cut much deeper and whip side to side more effortlessly, but are tougher to handle and are susceptible to bending.
Your choice of best blade will actually depend on the kind of material you want to cut as well as the predictable time of use. The combination blade is ideal for cutting metallic materials as well as for roughing wood. A high-speed blade is ideal for dealing with heavy duty material and other materials such as fiberglass, cast iron, and cast aluminum. In case you wish to remove smaller items, it is suitable to go with a fine-tooth blade.
As a tip, look for a model with several adjustable positions. This will not only ensure better usage, but also blade visibility along with the chance to cut in different positions.
Factor 5: Shoe Adjustment
It is wise to look for an adjustable shoe if you need more control over the cut depth as well as more stability. However, the adjustment system has to be precise as well as smooth.
Factor 6: Stroke Length
This is a critical factor to consider, as it is the amount of travel the blade has. On each pass, if the blade travels longer, teeth will dig more into the surface as well as result in a swifter cut. So, consider the stroke length that is more than the standard one. Majority of tools come with a stoke length ranging from 0.75 to 1.25 inches or less.
It is also true that you do not always wish the blade to jut out too far into the cutting surface. Therefore, look for an adjustable stroke length. As a tip, know your tasks well to determine the best stroke length for your projects.
Factor 7: Speed and Variable Speed
In case of a recip saw, speed refers to the number of strokes performed in a minute. It indicates how swiftly the unit can cut through the different types of materials. Usually, corded and cordless reciprocating saws perform 2300-3000 strokes every 60 seconds. As a rule of thumb, higher amperages give more strokes per minute.
If you need versatility because you need to deal with different materials at various angles, look for variable speed control. Indicated in strokes per minute, variable speed indicates how fast the blade can work or cuts. With this control or setting, you can set the proper speed as per the cutting material to ensure more consistency as well as improved precision. This feature makes a big difference if you will be using the tool quite often.
Factor 8: Movement Type
You can choose the movement to be either straight or orbital. A straight reciprocating saw turns back and forth on a single plane. On the other hand, a reciprocating saw with orbital movement turns in an oval or more elliptical shape rather than only up and down, for ensuring faster and more aggressive cuts. In case you need a recip saw with orbital action, consider a model that can turn both horizontally and vertically for swifter cuts at a consistent speed at any position.
Factor 9: Blade Replacement
Having a tool-less blade replacement mechanism enables you to replace the blade on the spot, more quickly. You do not have to tolerate the inconvenience of carrying an additional tool for removal on the job site. After all, recip saw blades need replacement quite often. This indicates that the way you change the blade significantly influences the tool’s performance.
Usually, all modern recipe saws come with a quick release chuck due to which there is no need to use any other tool for changing the blade. This feature not only adds to overall convenience, but also saves much time while switching between tasks. Just ensure that the chuck allows mounting the blade vertically and horizontally so that you can rotate the direction of blade without changing the grip.
Additionally, look for a model with blade lock that does not need an extra wrench. Just keep in mind that such a lock mechanism varies widely from one recip saw to another.
Factor 10: Advanced Ergonomics
Along with anti-slippery grip and fatigue-less handle, you can even find a new feature called rotating nosepieces in a few models. While they rotate 90 or 360 degrees, they stop at every 90 degrees for securing the nosepiece in place. Such a mechanism allows mounting the blade at various angles as well as contributes to the tool’s ergonomics.
Factor 11: Safety
You simply cannot compromise with the safety aspect of any power tool. In case of a reciprocating saw, consider having safety features such as auto stop brushes, speed regulation, and metal gear housing. Auto stop brushes allow the unit to stop automatically as well as to prevent damage to the motor once the brushes wear out.
Similarly, speed regulation allows the unit to sustain its speed while using it, which prevents any sudden slow down. You should also consider adding a metal gear casing to the tool for more durability as well as better motor protection. It also averts the motor from burning out because of heavy use.
Factor 12: Storage Case
Selecting a recip saw with a storage case makes sense, as the case keeps the tool protected while in transit. At the same time, it also protects the cord and other accessories. You are also ensured of enhanced portability as well as additional storage space.
Here, the key is to select the right case, as that is what makes all the difference. A metallic option is your best bet. Similarly, you should check for space for each accessory and part such as blade, cord, and battery. Otherwise, you will have to carry and track an additional storage space.
5 Best Reciprocating Saws of 2016 Reviewed
This Mexican saw is especially designed for hand tool users who wish to do their demolition tasks for remodeling, quickly. It features a robust 10-amp motor for heavy-duty jobs, keyless blade clamp for rapid blade changes as well as flush cutting, 0-2,800 strokes per minute, and 1-1/8-inch length of stroke for swift cutting. The tool also comes with a lightweight design and anti-slip, comfort grip for fatigue-free handling as well as variable speed control for task-specific performance on a myriad of construction materials. Imitating the to and fro motion of a handsaw, this one rapidly cuts through shingles, wood, and PVC pipes.
MAP: “I’ve owned this saw a couple years now. It’s done everything I asked it to do, it’s had enough power to handle anything I’ve thrown at it, blade changing is a snap.”
This Chinese unit can saw, cut, and demolish almost any surface with its robust 11-amp motor embedded within a lightweight and compact design. It features precision and power to work on even the biggest or toughest surface. It is made for those who wish to take the benefit from high level of sawing and cutting power. Precision in cuts comes from dual LED lighting system controlling bright and lasting LED lights lighting up your dark work area. It also features tool-less blade change system for easy and fast blade removal and installation, ergonomic handle with soft grip for highly comfortable cutting, and variable speed control for handling a variety of materials.
Torre: “I use this in my avocado grove. I prune and cut trees with it using the Bosch pruning blades. I love it. I do not like chain saws. This works great.”
This one is one of the rugged cordless reciprocating saws to consider. It features tool-less blade changing, variable speed trigger, 20v battery (excluded), and pivoting shoe. Its speed is 0-3,000 strokes per minute and comes a with stroke length of 7/8 inches.
Lawrence: “Bought it several months ago for yard work. Is much lighter and cheaper than some other models, but has been surprisingly powerful and rugged. Have even cut a 6” diameter stump off (with larger blades).”
This Sawzall saw is commendable for its supreme speed, power, and durability at 0-3,000 strokes per minute and with 12-amp motor and a 3/4-Inch stroke length. It also comes with gear protecting clutch to extend both motor life and gear by sopping up impactful forces. There is also a blade clamp enabling quick blade changes as well as a vibration reducing mechanism for smoother cutting. A front grip area simply adds to its superb ergonomics.
Pastor Dan: “This is easily one of the best built tools I have ever owned (and I’m no youngster). It is nicely balanced, solidly put together, runs smoothly, and works just as you would imagine that it should.”
This cordless model is known for its high performance through 0-3,000 strokes per minute and 1-inch stroke length. The design is compact enough to work at tight spaces, while the variable speed trigger allows working on a variety of materials. The tool also features blade release mechanism, pivoting shoe, and contoured over-molded handle for optimal comfort.
Hight: “Great tool! Light weight and powerful. I have used it to cut metal radiators in a scrap yard.”
So, have you found your best reciprocating saw? Well, if not, you can go through some more reciprocating saw reviews on our site. We strongly recommend comparing the different models as per your needs for choosing the most suitable one.